Succeeding with ADHD in College and Career
It seems the kid jumping off the bookshelf in a 3rd grade is still the image that comes to mind for many people when they hear ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). This unfortunate stereotype doesn’t do justice to the millions of Americans living successfully with ADHD. People of all ages alike suffer from the inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that characterizes this condition.
The Benefits of ADHD in College
Having ADHD in college isn’t all bad. Research has discovered is that ADHD comes with some perks despite the challenges it presents. Below are some of the benefits of having ADHD that science has uncovered:
Creativity – A 2011 study done at The University of Memphis (White & Shaw) discovered a strong positive correlation between people with ADHD and creativity. A few years later, in 2017, three studies were conducted on a group of 1000 college students in The Netherlands (Boot, Nevicka, and Baas). Once again, they demonstrated that people with ADHD tend to be more creative. While ADHD may not cause heightened levels of creativity, it looks like ADHD brains are able to more unique connect pieces of information in the world around them, making them more creative and innovative in college.
Energy – Who wouldn’t love some more energy? Being energetic can be a huge asset for people with ADHD. A busy day of running errands, writing a term paper, going to class, working out, and meeting up with friends would leave most people feeling drained. But for those with ADHD, the idea of moving around and jumping from one thing to the next is exciting. They get to expend energy which, in turn, allows them to concentrate better and meet their goals.
Spontaneity and Responsiveness – Impulsivity is another central characteristic of ADHD. If you think about it, though, isn’t impulsivity just a shortened reaction time? But particular contexts, the ability to react quickly to changing circumstances is critical. Impulsivity can also manifest as spontaneity. Spontaneous people contribute novel and inspired ideas to group work and tend to enjoy life more and don’t get so bogged down by routines because they sprinkle variety over their day-to-day. They’re much more likely to make the most out of their college experience.
Athleticism – Running, turning, throwing, kicking, jumping, and swimming – all in a day’s work for most athletes. This is where hyperactivity and impulsivity become gold. Whether it be a high schooler who enjoys throwing hoops with friends on the weekends, or an Olympic swimmer like Michael Phelps (who has ADHD, fyi), athletes must be able to react to stimuli without delay. They need to be able to remain active for extended periods. The athleticism that accompanies ADHD also represents a positive feedback loop. A person with ADHD may be a better athlete due to their hyperactivity and quick reaction times. In turn, engaging in physical activity helps regulate the symptoms of ADHD. For many students with ADHD, athletics affords them valuable scholarship opportunities to study at prestigious colleges and universities.
Hyperfocus – Popular assumptions aside, there is actually a growing body of research (and decades of clinical experience) that indicates that hyperfocus is a type of concentration that comes naturally to people with ADHD. It appears that the exact cerebral mechanism which makes the ADHD brain easily distractible can also cause it to create an extreme type of focus on a topic or task of interest (even to the point of totally disregarding everything else them). This is known as hyperfocus. Once a college student with ADHD finds a college major or career of interest, they’ll focus on it and excel beyond their peers.